Bigger Thinking [was: Tor Project 2008 Tax Return]

Jim Jimmymac at
Sun Aug 22 04:53:48 UTC 2010

Mike Perry wrote:
> Actually there are several large-userbase companies that want to
> include Tor by default in their product, either as a client, a relay,
> or a bridge.  Unfortunately, the only answer we have for them in the
> immediate term is "For the love of goddess don't do that, you'll
> destroy Tor". 
> Our immediate concern is making it possible to support at least a
> fraction of one of these userbases in either the relay or the bridge
> roll. The relay role will require a significant update to Tor's
> directory mechanisms, and we are trying to drive academic research
> forward in these areas.  ...

This might be a good time to bring up a concern that has been on my mind 
for a while.  I don't know if this is one of the concerns that has 
already been identified when thinking about a much larger relay pool.

I connect to the Internet with dialup.  I have been successfully using 
Tor clients for 4+ years.  One of the issues with using Tor over a slow 
connection is the amount of time it takes to update the information 
about the network when Tor is first started after having been off-line 
for a while.  Depending on connection speed and how long the client has 
been off-line, this typically takes about 3 to 10 minutes.  Perhaps a 
bit longer.  My experience is that during this time the connection is 
pretty much useless for any other purpose.

While inconvenient, this situation is certainly manageable.  My concern 
has been what happens as the Tor network grows.  At some point the delay 
would start being a serious problem.  So as you think about how to 
change the directory mechanisms to handle a significantly larger number 
of relays I request that you also think about changing how this 
information is distributed to clients.  Perhaps with a much larger Tor 
network, each client doesn't actually have to know about all of the 
nodes but can make do with a reasonably sized "sampling."  Or maybe 
there is a way to spread out over time the increased amount of 
information available.

I can imagine that a solution to the problems a slow connection has 
might not be acceptable for relays.  As such, maybe there could be a 
"slow connection" option in torrc that would not be used by relays.

Thanks for giving consideration to this issue.


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